How to Hack Google Analytics UTMs for extra Bing data

In the world of paid media, we all know the value of search query reports – especially when we combine it with conversion data to uncover new positive and negative keywords. Unfortunately if the business you work for isn’t an ecommerce business that can use conversion tracking on thank you pages, getting this data can be a little tricky, even with the help of third-party tools like Infinity or Response Tap (which track phone calls). This is particularly true for Bing Ads. So, how do we solve it?

Why Look at Bing?

Why the focus on Bing Ads for this article? The steps I’m going to take you through will also work for Adwords, but thanks to Google’s Analytics integration with Adwords and many of the third-party conversion tracking tools, you’ll be able to see search query conversion data in GA as long as you’ve enabled auto-tagging in Adwords. The magic of GCLID takes care of the rest.

If you try and access the same data for Bing, you’ll see this:

Rather than many beautiful entries of Bing search query data, everything comes through as a single line of (not set), even if you have auto-tagging switched on. It can show me the total number of conversions that have been driven by Bing, but it doesn’t know the queries that did so.

Doubleclick has the opposite problem – it shows all of the query data, but their search query report doesn’t show data for the custom conversions that we use to bring in our call tracking data.

Frustrating right?

Time for a glorious PPC hack!

Hacking Auto-Tagging

What I’m going to suggest to you here is a hack, but it works. It’s a work-around, but it gets the job done. We’re going to hijack UTM parameters within our URL templates. We can’t just hijack any UTM parameter though.

First things first, make sure auto-tagging is switched on for your account, with the correct setting enabled. Log into your Bing Ads account, click the cog in the top right-hand corner and go to “Accounts & Billing”. Once in there you’ll need to select the relevant account (if you have more than one).

Make sure the “Add UTM tags to my destination URLs is ticked” and select the “Keep my existing tags and add any that are missing” option underneath. This bit is super important and our hack won’t work without it.

What selecting the second option means is that any tags we’ve already specified will remain and the auto-tagging will add any UTM parameters which we haven’t individually included. I’m sure you’re all familiar with auto-tagging and the specific UTM parameters available, but just in case, here’s a summary from Bing:

Auto-tagging

What it is: Bing Ads automatically adds several types of UTM (urchin tracking module) tags to the destination URLs of your text ads, keywords, Bing Shopping Campaigns, Image Extensions, and Sitelink Extensions. Bing Ads add these UTM tags: utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_term.

Why it’s important: If you use Google Analytics, UTM tags give you more information about ad performance.
What you need to know:

• You can choose to keep your existing UTM tags, in which case, we only append the UTM tags that aren’t included with your destination URLs. Or you can choose to have Bing Ads replace all of your existing tags with new UTM tags.
• Auto-tags are applied to text ads, keywords, Bing Shopping Campaigns, Image Extensions, and Sitelink Extensions.

If you’re already using auto-tagging for your Bing campaigns and regularly analysing this data in GA, you’ll know that you’re getting usable data from tm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign and utm_term, but not from utm_content. In our case it was just pulling through campaign names again, rather than anything useful like search query, ad group or ad ID.

That makes this UTM parameter the perfect one for us to use to capture search query information.

Setting up the parameter

Next up, we’ll check what Bing URL parameter we have to use to transfer the right information. You can find a list of them here. We’re interested in the section called “Destination URL, final URLs, tracking templates and custom parameters”. This gives you a list of all of the parameters that Bing Ads can return a value for. The one we’re interested in is at the bottom of the list, called {QueryString}. If we team this up with “utm_content”, we can create a variable that looks like this

utm_content={QueryString}

What this will then do, is take our Bing search query information and drop it into the GA Ad Content reports – which aren’t showing anything useful anyway! It’d be even better if we could get the information to appear in the Search Query reports in GA, but there’s currently no way to facilitate this through UTM parameters alone.

Applying the parameter

To apply it so that it begins to pass data is as simple as adding it to your URLs. If you’re using a Bing URL tracking template, drop it onto the end of it, like this:

(Go to Shared Library -> URL Options within Bing Ads to apply this). In our case it goes at the end of our Doubleclick and Infinity tracking and rather than apply it in Bing, we apply it within the Doubleclick platform. If you’re also using Doubleclick and would like to add it there, click into the settings for your Bing account and scroll down to the URL template where you can add it.

If you’re not using URL templates at all and prefer to manually tag your URLs, you can just paste the parameter at the end . (But you really should use URL templates – they’re great!)

Using your data

We’re nearly there! All we need to do now is match up this information with our clicks and cost and we have everything we need to optimise. If you’re already importing Bing cost data in GA, you may be all set, but chances are, you’re not. This means we’ve got one final step and to do it we’ll need 3 things:

      1. Your spreadsheet of choice (bonus points if you’re using a GA plug-in that can pull in data for you as it makes the next step easier)
      2. An export of your new data from GA
      3. A Bing search query report

Spreadsheet

I use Excel for this, with a plug-in for Analytics Edge, which fetches in the GA data for me. I just have to set the report up once and then refresh it whenever I need to update it. Another option is to use Google Sheets with something like Supermetrics , who also do various plug-ins for Excel.

GA Export

Either create a report in the GA interface and export/download it to the spreadsheet of your choice, or use an analytics plugin to extract the data.

The easiest to get it is by using a Bing PPC segment (where source=bing and medium=cpc) which you apply before doing any further filtering.

From here you can get your data from a couple of places – the easiest being the Source/Medium acquisition report. Just be sure to select Ad Content as your Primary Dimension:

You’ll notice that there’s still some data coming through as (not set) but this is now in the minority, rather the almost total number that it was before. You can include data for things like sessions, bounce rate, new user%, whatever you like – but the most valuable thing to include is your conversion data.

Bing Search Term Report

Go back into Bing and run a search term report for the same date range as the GA report you pulled and include the below columns – I always like to see both “search term” and “keyword” so I can understand how broad some of my broad matches might be.

If you want, you can schedule this to be sent to you monthly, weekly, etc – to make refreshing the data even easier.

Pulling it together

Once you’ve got your two data sources, I find the easiest thing to do is to pivot your Bing SQR to remove any duplicates and then VLOOKUP on the search query to pull through the conversion and revenue data from your GA report. If you’re cleverer than I am (not hard!), you could use macros to automate some of this so that the whole report can be put together with just a few clicks.

What now?

So what’s next? You can use this method to pull through other Bing data into GA, be it ad group ID, creative ID etc – but beware that it would be at the expense of your search query data. Decide what variable is most valuable to you and use that.

Thankfully, Bing are working on integration with offline tracking tools, such as Infinity and Response tab – allowing uploads of data initially and hopefully progressing to full API integration – meaning that getting conversion data into Bing will no longer be solely reliant on the use of Bing’s UET tag. There’s no timelines for this integration yet, but the fact that Bing are doing this is another mark in the “more innovative than Adwords” column – with Adwords you have to use their tracking pixel or GA – there’ll be some sites which are unable to use either.

I hope you find this useful – I scoured the web for days trying to find information on how to get Bing search query data into GA and nobody had come up with a solution. I imagine we’re not the only ones who for whatever reason can’t use Bing’s Universal Event Tracking and it seems like a shame to miss out on this important aspect of account optimisation.

Have fun!

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Arianne Donoghue

About Arianne Donoghue

Arianne Donoghue is the Digital Marketing Manager at icelolly.com. Having started off her digital career client side in 2006, she's worked for both agencies and brands in-house, specialising in search. She is now back client side delivering paid media digital strategy for leading holiday comparison site icelolly.com.

  • Luke

    Stop the Government from spying on everybody. Use the search engine that does not change its results for political reasons and respects your privacy, just good old fashion results that are not tracked. Lookseek.com The world is over as we once new it. Have a greatday